EUNAN knew he was in trouble when just climbing the stairs had him puffing away like he was scaling Everest.

Looking at himself, Eunan knew he’d let himself go. He’d become excessively overweight and unhealthy, despite recently kicking his 300-a-week cigarette habit.

The dad-of-two said “I thought to myself, ‘Eunan you’ve really got to sort yourself out’. I was only 51, but I was like a man decades older struggling to just get upstairs.

“The truth is I had put on a lot of weight. I liked parties, functions, sports and social occasions and I loved food, especially going out for an Indian. I also like a pint of beer and a glass of wine, but I’d taken it too far.”

Eunan signed up for slimming classes and promptly shed two stone but he found the pounds slowly, but surely, crept back on, Then, in December 2010, the need to just “get in shape” cranked up to a more serious level. Eunan was told he had developed a lung condition called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

He said: “Like everyone else I had absolutely no idea what this was. I had never heard of it. I went to see a lung specialist at Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford, and the severity and life-threatening nature of my condition became all too apparent.

“The doctors told me the only ‘cure’ for my condition was a lung transplant. “Furthermore, they wouldn’t put me on the transplant list until I lost four stone, and they wouldn’t operate until I’d shed five stone! Basically, I had to lose weight to save my life.”

So weighing in at 19stone 6lbs, Eunan signed up to Health Idol in June last year, an eight-week course offering nutritional and lifestyle advice run by Leigh-based fitness expert and lifestyle coach Natasha Gant.

Eunan, who was the former director of inpatient and emergency services for the South Essex Partnership Trust and worked for many years at Runwell Hospital, Basildon Hospital and in mental health facilities across Essex, said: “I met Natasha and she started going through the principles of the course. I quickly learnt that this was not a diet, but a lifestyle course. We went through what were good foods and bad foods, but, just as importantly, we discussed sleep, exercise, mood, behaviours and habits.

The first step for Eunan was facing up to a few home truths about why he’d got so big.

He said: “My weight had to do with the fact that I was to all intents and purposes stuffing myself with the wrong foods.”

Eunan’s condition then began to deteriorate. He was on oxygen 24 hours a day, moved to a bedroom downstairs and even had to give up his job and the career he’d spent so long building up.

But, with the support of Natasha, the weight continued to come off and on June 1 Eunan, who lives in Chelmsford, was put on the transplant list.

He said: “It’s ironic that on July 13 I weighed in at 14 stone 6lb, exactly five stone lighter.

“The reason why it was ironic is because that night I got the call that there was a lung waiting for me.

“I had the transplant the next day at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.”

During the three-hour operation to replace Eunan’s left lung, his devoted wife of 30 years, Lorraine, and children Connor, 27, and Louise, 30, waited nervously for news.

But it all went well and after a long recovery Eunan’s life has now dramatically improved. He said: “Every day I feel stronger. Every day I’m able to do something I couldn’t before. I am oxygen free, full of energy, back sleeping upstairs, back watching local football and back to life.”

Eunan even bought a pet – a little cocker spaniel named Truffles, to help him keep up his daily exercise regime.

He said: “When my wife saw Truffles in a dog’s home, she fell in love with her, but she hid from me the fact Truffles was blind! “When we got her home, I realised and my wife said something that really stuck with me.

“She said ‘yes that’s why she’s special. You’ve had a disability and she’s got a disability, you are two of a kind’. I love taking her for a walk everyday, she’s become a massive part of our lives. The only problem is yelling ‘come on Truffles’ over the park does nothing for my manly reputation!”

Eunan’s illness wasn’t down to his unhealthy lifestyle, however the fact he needed to lose so much weight certainly made an impact and he realises his eating, smoking and drinking habits put him on a slippery slope.

Eunan hopes to be able to go back to work soon, but instread of taking another high profile job in the mental health service, wants to go into volunteering, particularly advocacy work for people with mental health problems.

He wants to promote the need for more people to become organ donors.

He said: “Before all this I had one of those old red and blue donor cards stuffed in the back of my wallet, but I never even thought about what it actually means to become a donor.

”Now obviously I feel so differently. I notice newspaper articles and hear stories about donor transplants all the time where as before I just glossed over them.”

As for the identity of the person whose own death led to Eunan receiving his life-saving lung, he said: “I want to find out whether my donor was a man or a woman so I can write to their family. I intend to do that.

“I find it just incredible that their family had to make the decision to give away their loved one’s body parts at probably the worst moment of their lives. I cannot image how much courage it takes to do that.

“We need to talk about death in this country and the possibility of becoming a donor. It’s a conversation we don’t want to have but it’s got to be done. My daughter is expecting a baby this summer and I am so excited.

“When he or she arrives, it will be a day I know I probably shouldn’t have seen. When I do write to the donor family I will make it clear that when I take my grandchild in my arms for the first time it will only be because of the them and the fact their father, mother, son, husband, wife, whoever they were, cared enough be an organ donor."